One of my favorite indie perfumists of many years announced yesterday that she would not be returning from her hiatus, so she could focus on raising her baby girl. Meredith acknowledged in her update that she didn’t know how people raise kids and run a business at the same time. Of course, I was a little sad to see one of my favorite small businesses in the skincare industry officially closing, but without a doubt, I felt a familiar pang of knowing what that decision feels like.
I often get asked how I “do it all” as a mother of three, running my own business, among all the other little things I do or have done. (Like homeschooling, hosting a conference, managing more than one business, our bus conversion project, and so much more.) My response is usually, “Well, the truth is… I don’t.” And that’s just the way it is: you can’t do it all.
I haven’t considered writing about being a mompreneur before, because there are entire communities and networks built around being a stay-at-home and work-at-home parent. But so many of these communities push a messed up expectation that is unrealistic. Being thirty weeks pregnant myself with our fourth kidlet, I’m currently prepping my biz to handle sleepless nights, midnight feedings, hours of holding a newborn, and lots of dirty diapers. Not the other way around.
The fact of the matter is, I love my business, and it is like another child to me. But when it comes right down to it, I love my kids more. I started my own business so I could be there for them, not so they could be there for my business. Here are my biggest ways to put my biz in it’s place when I need to:
Be realistic and accept that you can’t do it all.
The drive behind entrepreneurship gives us a desire to be 100% on top of it all, and when you throw being a parent on top of that, you also want to be 100% there for your kids. Here’s a little math secret: you can’t physically do 200%. Hell, you can’t even be 100% all the time.
I have to constantly remember that a) no one can possibly do it all and b) spending more time on either my work or my family doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be quality time. Don’t focus on the amount of time you spend and where, instead focus on bringing the best quality of work and experiences to all aspects of your life. Stop striving for balance, aim for integrating instead.
Set your boundaries between work and family.
My smartphone is one of my favorite things in the world, but I’ve had to work a lot on training myself to set boundaries between work interrupting my life and vice versa. If I get notifications about work-related business when I’m not working, I try not to let them suck me in. And when I’m working, I turn on the Do Not Disturb mode on my phone and try to stay off social media where family and friends can be a distraction.
For a brief period of time, two of my three kids were in public school. I worked when they weren’t home (and my husband took care of our youngest.) When they were home, it was family time until they went to bed, and then I could throw a few more hours on the clock. Now that we homeschool, I set similar boundaries: homeschool time is time for them, and scheduled time without them is time for my work.
Find your own boundaries and set them. Don’t work when you aren’t working, and don’t do personal stuff when you are supposed to be working. It sounds simple and easy, but I know it’s not!
Start scheduling, to the best of your ability.
Whether a set and hard schedule is the right thing for you or a more flexible method of time blocking is better, find a scheduling system that works for you. Usually, time blocking is my go-to method of scheduling. And while I could schedule time blocks for working from 8 am to 2:30 pm, I didn’t. Filling up your schedule, no matter what method of scheduling you use, doesn’t leave any time for interruptions, flexibility, or anything else. Additionally, whatever time is the end time of your work day, stick to it. I intentionally set mine to be the time that my kids came home from school when they were in school. I couldn’t put off picking them up to get that one last email done.
And we all know that babies don’t care if the next hour is supposed to be your time to write a newsletter, so this is when I tend to move to a more task-oriented approach to my schedule. I have a list of tasks I need to accomplish each week and I know how long they take me, so I organize a weekly time-based list of items for when I can tackle something. For instance, when I have fifteen minutes to spare, I can snag a task that should be able to be completed in that timeframe.
Sometimes, I will roughly block off work time, and then do tasks by prioritizing using a rating method or the Eisenhower matrix. I have to switch it up, or I stop sticking to any kind of schedule out of boredom. (I’m not a routine kinda gal!) Whatever works for you, do it. Just because this or that scheduling method or productivity hack worked for some else doesn’t mean it will work for you. What matters is that you keep trying things until you find your own personal magic system.
Always have a game plan.
No amount of time that you work on your business can be effective, if you don’t have a plan in place. You have to do the work to… do the work.
I host mini-strategy sessions with myself often. Once a week, I look over what’s on my plate for the next week and make a game plan. Once a month, I evaluate my annual goals, my monthly mini-goals that feed into the annual goals, and how I’m doing with each project. Every three months, I check myself over the last quarter against my annual goals and quickly assess if I need to redefine or change anything. Every year, I create a set of annual goals, a loose strategy plan by the month, and conduct a little reflection on the previous year: what worked, what didn’t, what areas of my life/biz I’m happy with, what I’m not, etc.
It sounds like a ton of planning, but in reality, I spend maybe 15 to 30 minutes a week on planning. It definitely pays off in the long run. Having a strategy in place and a focused plan to work from will help you get more done in less time = winning!
Side note: here are some of my favorite planners and other tools for strategy planning and some of my favorite apps to help me schedule, plan, and streamline.
Streamline your life’s flow.
Normally, I batch like tasks together and design my work week into a flow of days. Some days are meaningful inspiring days where I focus on building and growth tasks, like learning new things, building out new projects, working on audience building, adding functionality to my website, creating marketing funnels, etc. Other days are dedicated to preservation and maintenance, like planning and strategy sessions, client coaching, email handling, writing weekly newsletters, etc. The remaining days are flex days, where I do the minimal work necessary to push the business through the day and focus on my family instead.
Whenever possible, I delegate tasks that would be found on preservation/maintenance days. And that doesn’t stop with my work… there are plenty of crappy tasks that we have to do that aren’t meaningful or necessary for your personal touch. You know what I’m talking about: paying bills, grocery shopping, cleaning, etc. All those icky adult things. Outsource those things (automate bill pays, get groceries delivered, hire a housekeeper, etc.) or batch them together, so you spend less time running around like a chicken with it’s head cut off.
Be ruthless with your most valuable asset.
Learn to say no. And not in a wishy washy, kind-of sorta, well, maybe not, kind of way. I’ve gotten a lot better about this, but I think it’s something that I’ll always be working on. As an entrepreneur and a parent, I’ve come to realize that my time is my most valuable asset: it’s the only thing I can’t get back when I spend it.
Having a hard time saying no? It’s not as hard as it seems. Acknowledge the request, show appreciation, and give a firm but friendly answer.
- “I would love to do XYZ, but I need to turn this down.”
- “I really appreciate you thinking of me, however, I have to say no right now.”
- “My answer is no at this time. I will let you know if that changes.”
- “I’m not able to do that at this time, but I’m honored you thought of me.”
- Or be a badass about saying no.
Don’t let FOMO (fear of missing out) convince you to say yes to things that aren’t right for you, either. If you have set your boundaries, have a plan in place, and know how much time you realistically have to commit, you’ll stop saying yes to every-little-thing.